Saturday, 20 December 2008

Sweet Blood

A while ago, I mentioned that I had booked myself in for a thorough medical at a private practice, my first ever. (Americans, this is England, you don’t bother the doctor if you can avoid it. They seem to have so little time to spare.) My chief concern at the time was the haemoccult test, which requires three days' worth of shit to be conveyed to the doctor, to do with it whatever it is he does with it. How do you collect and transport it? Carrier bag? Lunch box? Dump truck? In fact, it’s easy, because you are sent three little cards that look like books of matches and you apply to each a sample ‘from either end of the motion’, repeat the process the following day and the next, and then bundle the cards off by recorded delivery - ‘anything valuable in the envelope at all?’ Simple, even if not very pleasant. So don’t worry.

Now, almost four weeks later, I expected medical matters and concern for the dark, messy insides of the body to be over and done with, but there has been an unexpected twist. My blood tests showed a 'level of glucose in the diabetic range'. This is a direct quote from the doctor’s terse e-mail – he is not good at phatic utterance, even in communications where a little would not go amiss. I had to get re-tested.

The phlebotomist at my GP’s looked at the print out of the test results and when she got to the glucose bit she went ‘Ooh! Ooh!’ as one who’s just found a baby slug in her salad. ‘Ooh, that’s not good!’ she squealed, leaving me unsure whether the appropriate response were to chuckle at life's little ups and downs, apologise for upsetting her, or burst into tears. She took more blood. ‘What if it is diabetes?’ I asked. ‘Well, to start with, just diet and tablets’ she said. ‘But it gets more complicated with age!’ she added, cheerily. Thanks, pal.

My GP also made oddly irresolute noises when the second test results were in. ‘Hmmm. Yeah. Well.’

‘What’s up?’

‘Borderline diabetic, is this. What do you wanna do?’

What did he expect me to say?

‘Eat candy and get sick!’
‘I think I’ll simply end it all now’
‘Kiss me, John, and do it like you mean it!’

I said I didn’t know. I didn't say I wouldn't be sitting there if I did, although I thought it.

‘Yeah, well, we’ll do you another test sort of mid-January-ish.’

So that’s what we’ll do.

My cousin has been diabetic since she was four. When I was a little boy I thought, absurdly, that her diabetes was a privilege, because she had her own special sweets, her own little lunch packs, and generally had things – hypodermics, fascinating chunky little glass bottles of insulin with rubber membrane caps - that her sister, mine and I did not. I won’t need any of this stuff whatever the results, thank God.

I have not had raging thirst and the need to pee every few minutes, but I have felt over the last year that everything I do requires twice the physical and mental effort it used to. The walk from the university to the station takes all of 10 minutes but it often feels like a trek through deep snow. There are many days when I get up and make the bed, and spend all day just waiting to get back into it. The working week often seems interminable, and I have had problems at work because I have simply forgotten to complete loads of dreary admin, my priority being to get away, get home, and crash out. So a diagnosis of mature-onset diabetes might explain this and the medication possibly make me a bit livelier.

Now I'm working on a set of excuses for if it transpires that I am not diabetic after all.


Bo said...

Oh dear! Not the Xmas present you were hoping for. :|

vilges suola said...

true, a bottle or two of good malt would have been more welcome. But it could be a bloody sight worse. Small mercies, and that!


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